On any given day, a mom may have prepared perfectly-cut organic veggies and fruits, cut flavorful sandwiches into whimsical shapes, or created elaborate kid-friendly charcuterie boards. But, what about our wellness? How much time and resources do we spend daily on our own well-being? If your life is anything like mine, you’re lucky to squeeze in a workout once a week. Investing time to focus on healthy eating habits rather than eating your kids’ leftovers or fast food feels like a luxury.
However, our wellness should be a top priority so we can be our best selves for our children. Living a life with wellness as our foundation involves changing our daily habits and priorities. This is no small feat because we have small mouths to feed and little bodies to take care of all the time. But our needs and wants matter as mothers.
But, in the hustle and bustle of mommy life, how can we realistically do all these things? More specifically, I am interested in learning effective ways we can integrate more healthy eating habits into our lifestyles. I interviewed renowned registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and Nutrition Therapist, Eve Lahijani, to pose these questions to her. Eve runs a successful nutrition counseling business, VitaminEve, with both in-person and online services to help her clients heal their relationships with food. She knows firsthand what an unhealthy lifestyle can do to one’s well-being and has transformed her life to focus on nutritious eating habits and wellness.
Eve is also a dear friend of mine who has helped me on my own well-being journey. I credit her with the knowledge and progress I have made to lead a more purposeful and well-balanced life when it comes to my nutrition. I asked Eve: What are some healthy eating habits busy moms can incorporate into their daily routines? See below her insights and suggestions and start your own wellness journey today. Your body, soul, mind, and family will thank you.
1. Anticipate Hunger
When preparing for an outing with our kids, Eve notices that, as moms, we jam pack the diaper bag and pull out all the stops when it comes to our kids’ snacks on-the-go. We know what our kids look like when they’re “hangry” so we prep and plan accordingly. But, Eve posed an important question: What do moms do to anticipate our hunger? I know I become another (not-so-friendly) person when my stomach starts to growl.
More often than not, our nutritional needs as mothers are an afterthought. Eve stresses the importance of elevating our basic needs, like expecting hunger throughout our day. She shared, “Breakfast is non-negotiable. You’re being a mom. You’re ‘on.’ It is important because you need the mood stability [which food can provide], but you’re also setting an example for your kids. Kids learn from what you do, not what you say.”
Caring for our children is the most important role of our lives. As such, it demands our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Eve wants us to perform at our best by fueling our bodies with nutritious meals and snacks so we can thrive as mommies while also modeling this healthy behavior to our kids.
This Does Not Mean: Eat your kids’ leftovers as your meal. Nor does it mean “punishing” yourself by removing food from your meal because you did not exercise on that day.
This Does Mean: Prepare nutrient-rich food for yourself so you can satisfy your hunger when it arises. Hunger will come every 2-4 hours. Be ready with healthy food choices.
2. Prepare Your Snacks Your Way
There are so many types of snacks marketed for our little eaters. Not all of them (or maybe not most of them!) seem appetizing for adults. Eve cautions us, “If you don’t take time out of the day to prepare your own set of snacks and you don’t like the kid-approved snacks, you may not be setting yourself up for success.”
Not having viable adult-approved healthy snack options can lead to unhealthier eating habits. I confess that those on-the-go yogurts and the squeezable apple sauce in the pouch are not very appealing to my palate. I would rather skip the snack all together than subject myself to eating either of those!
The next time you are at the supermarket, consider adding to your cart some healthy snack options for your kids and you. Eve has provided us with some delicious and healthy snack choices in certain food categories for meals to support healthy eating:
- Roughage (Veggies)
She hopes this can provide some guidance to busy moms who don’t have much time to invest in their well-being.
This Does Not Mean: Although cookies, cakes, and other sweets are technically carbs, they process quicker in our bodies. As a result, these sweets won’t keep you satisfied for long and, therefore, don’t offer health benefits.
This Does Mean: Eating fiber-rich food which is less processed is preferred. It processes in our bodies slower and, therefore, keeps you fuller longer.
3. Eat Balanced, Satisfying Meals
One way to combat the daily challenges we face as moms is by eating balanced, satisfying meals. More specifically, Eve emphasizes that “eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner is a non-negotiable.” She wants moms to give ourselves permission to satisfy ourselves throughout the day when it comes to eating healthy food. She warns us that if we don’t, it most likely will cause overeating at night.
What do balanced, satisfying meals actually look like? Eve broke it down by explaining what the components of your plate can be if you want to make healthy eating choices for any meal.
This Does Not Mean: Avoid “grazing” because “the brain doesn’t register satisfaction in the same way,” said Eve.
This Does Mean: Crafting your plate at every meal to incorporate half your plate as fruits/veggies, one quarter to one third of your plate as protein, one quarter to one third of your plate healthy carbs, healthy fats, which are harder to quantify, should be also eaten at every meal. Water consumption should happen throughout your day. Eve suggests snacks every 2-4 hours in between meals.
4. Satisfy Your Hunger Between Meals
We’ve all been on some version of a calorie-counting diet that never really proves sustainable in the long term. To avoid going over the calories we allot ourselves, some may mistakenly avoid snacking in between meals. Eve wants to reframe our relationship to hunger and instead asks us to empower ourselves to satisfy our hunger when it arises outside of meal times. She shared, “The big gap [when feelings of hunger happen] is between lunch and dinner. This gap is way too big for most people so [if they don’t satisfy their hunger] they may overcompensate at night.
This Does Not Mean: Skipping snacks and avoiding your body’s hunger calls.
This Does Mean: Becoming best friends with healthy snacks so that they are with you when you are hungry. Some healthy snack options for busy mommies include peanut butter, string cheese, yogurt, and tangerines.
5. Address Emotional Eating
Motherhood can bring some real stressors into your daily routine. It can create struggles you never knew you could have. Some days, it’s just all about survival, especially when your kids are young. This rollercoaster ride of motherhood can push us to the point of exasperation, isolation, and hopelessness. In these dark moments, we may turn to food as comfort and not as something we need to satisfy our hunger. Hence, emotional eating is unleashed and it’s a downward spiral from there.
Eve wants us to be proactive with our feelings by anticipating them and being prepared with healthy coping mechanisms outside of emotional eating to address these big feelings. She suggests perhaps talking to a friend, crying, and/or journaling instead of indulging in multiple unhealthy choices. If we don’t preemptively find tools to address our feelings, she shared, we may turn to excessive food and alcohol consumption.
She also wants us to take notice as to when we have the impulse to eat. She suggests asking ourselves, “What am I hoping food would do for me?” She encourages us to reframe the impulse to turn to food and instead develop other ways to directly support our feelings through other healthier methods.
This Does Not Mean: Telling ourselves, “I’m in a bad situation so I deserve this.” If you use this method of thinking, you will always justify consuming food to numb your emotions.
This Does Mean: Ask yourselves, “Am I physically hungry? How else can I deal with this emotion?”
Like any habit, developing healthy eating habits takes time. Be gentle and patient with yourself as you make these incremental changes in baby steps.